Editor's note: This post originally ran on the personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly. It has been reprinted here with permission.
When my husband and I began our journey out of debt, our monthly bills were overwhelming. Of course, we were paying for all of the regular stuff like our mortgage, utilities and various insurance policies. However, we were also paying for things that we knew we wanted to live without. Credit card bills. Furniture that we had financed. Magazine subscriptions. I also like to remind myself that I once bought a Kirby vacuum from a door-to-door salesman for $1,300. And worse than that, I financed it! Add that to the list of ridiculous bills I was paying at the time and you might get a better idea of where we started from.
Anyway, our first step in getting out of the mess we created was to determine what we really needed. As we sorted through it all, we began cutting out anything that wasn’t completely necessary and using the money we saved to pay off our outstanding debts. The weeks and months went by, and we happily continued on this path until there was hardly anything left to cut. And that’s when it happened. My husband made a plea to cancel my final hold-out. On a rainy Saturday morning, Greg hid behind the couch and made the suggestion that we cancel our cable television. Feeling vulnerable and defensive, I refused to acknowledge his frugal and thoughtful advice. “But, what am I going to do every evening from 8:00 until midnight?!” I simply couldn’t even imagine a life without all of my favorite programming. Or maybe it was that I didn’t want to. After all, I was faithfully watching several reality television shows as if it were my part-time job. I just wasn’t ready to let go of that perceived responsibility. Despite the fact that we were forking over $80 to the cable television company every single month, I desperately wanted to keep our cable television package just the way it was.
An addict lashes out
“Our television bill is part of our entertainment budget,” I reasoned as I watched 10 consecutive hours of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Even as I said it, I knew that my argument didn’t really hold water. No matter how hard I tried, it was hard to defend the expenditure while we were still deep in debt. After all, we still owed on credit cards, our two cars, and student loans. My husband was right. At that point in our lives, cable television was an unnecessary luxury. “Once we’re out of debt, we’ll reward ourselves by getting cable again,” my husband promised.
Although I didn’t really want to hear it, I knew he had a point. He always does. Although television made for some fun and mindless entertainment, we were just paying too much for the privilege. So after some consideration, we decided together that it would be wise to cancel our cable package until we were out of debt. I was definitely sad, but Greg convinced me that temporarily cutting our cable would provide an additional incentive to pay off all of our stuff. I agreed, although begrudgingly, and he called and canceled our package before I could change my mind.
The search for cheaper TV
Since we live near our state’s capital, we hoped that we could get some of the major networks with a regular old antenna. Fortunately, it worked. A $40 antenna allowed us to view all of the major networks most of the time. Of course, our new set-up meant that we sometimes had to walk across the room to adjust the antenna for better reception. However, at least we could tune in to the weather, and my daughter could watch Saturday morning cartoons this way. Also, the inconvenience was definitely worth it considering the fact that our television bill had been so drastically reduced from $80 to zero.